Sherry Yard's Fig Bars
Irene Wong's Panthay Noodles

James Peterson's Mushrooms à la Grecque


Languorous cooking times, afternoons spent in the kitchen, and a honorary membership to the Slow Food movement may be all well and good, but give me quick, something-out-of-nothing meals that come together in less time than it takes to make a plate of pasta and I'll be seduced, every time.

Who hasn't stood in front of their fridge with the door open, stomach rumbling and hands feeling trembly with hunger, wishing that a little bewinged creature trailing pixie dust would swoop in, pluck out all the edible bits and pieces, and conjure up a quick meal in less time than it takes to say "I believe in fairies!"?

Just this past week, I have made bread in less than an hour (honest-to-God - more on that next time), fragrant lentil stew in under thirty minutes (red lentils, people, they're the ticket), and then these mushrooms - culled, nearly-forgotten, from the bottom of the fridge - in almost no time at all.

It's like I've been charmed, or something.


Lightly glazed with their own juices fortified by a splash of wine, a fillip of lemon juice, and a smattering of coriander seed, the mushrooms have a luscious, silky-firm quality that belies the speed with which they were cooked, and a hauntingly delicate flavor. The dish comes together so fast it will surprise you - you might barely have time to open your mail, grill bread and set the table.

But what a relief, then, to sit down so soon after you started, and have a meal, a good one. No bowl of cereal, no peanut butter-smeared water crackers, no desperate dialing to the mediocre take-out place. Though we ate ours plain and unadorned except for the parsley, I think a softly poached egg would be spectacular on top, the swirling yolk enriching the flavors and adding ballast to the meal.

Real fast food*, indeed.

*With thanks to NS for that one.

Mushrooms à la Grecque
Serves 4

1/2 pound small white button mushrooms
1/2 pound small cremini mushrooms
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
Salt to taste
Freshly ground pepper to taste
8 slices country white bread, for grilling (you might like brushing a peeled garlic clove ever-so-lightly over the bread)
2 teaspoons finely chopped parsley

1. Slice off and discard the mushroom stems. Rinse and drain the mushrooms. If the mushroom caps are larger than three-quarters inch in diameter, cut them in half vertically. Put the mushrooms, wine, lemon juice, olive oil, coriander seeds and one-fourth cup water in a 3 1/2 - or 4-quart pot. Cover the pot and bring to a simmer over medium heat, gently shaking the pan a few times during the first few minutes of cooking. Simmer gently, covered, for 12 minutes to cook through.

2. Using a slotted spoon, remove the mushrooms from the pot and put them into a bowl to cool. Return the mushroom liquid to a good simmer, adding any remaining liquid that the resting mushrooms have released back to the pan to reduce. Simmer until the liquid is reduced to one-fourth cup, then remove from the heat.

3. Pour the reduced liquid over the mushrooms and season with salt and pepper. Cool to room temperature. The recipe to this point can be made ahead and the mushrooms stored, refrigerated, for 1 to 2 days.

4. Heat a grill over medium heat. Grill both sides of the bread until lightly browned. Divide the mushrooms with the juices among four small bowls. Sprinkle each with fresh parsley and serve with the bread.